Parents will know how challenging it is to raise kids. Apart from preparing their lunches, sending them to school, showering them with love, you also need to answer the most absurd questions they ask. If you are a parent with a 3- to 5-year-old, I’m sure you can relate.
However, before you start ignoring your child’s questions, consider why they do this. Children at the age of 3-5 years ask a lot of ‘why’ questions because they are genuinely curious about the world. Everything is new to them, so asking questions is their way of figuring the world out. Rather than dismissing your child’s ceaseless questioning, here’s why you should take steps to foster your child’s inquisitive mind.
- Instil a joy for learning
Children’s desire to know more about the world around them is a natural development that is crucial to learning. Clamping down on inquisitive behaviour sends the wrong signals that learning should not be encouraged.
Parents who continuously ignore their child’s questions may be perceived as authoritarian or neglective, and this behaviour ultimately deprives the child of learning about what they truly want to know about. Children might grow up to be afraid to ask questions, or become apathetic about the world.
Therefore, a positive response to children’s questions is a crucial step in developing a joy for learning. When a question is satisfactorily answered, the child feels fulfilled that they can make better sense of the world, and increases in their sense of trust towards the answerer of their query.
- Opportunity for teaching
Kids sometimes ask ridiculous questions, which only goes to show how little they know. Rather than seeing them as pointless questions, parents should turn these moments of curiosity into teachable moments for the child. When handled appropriately, a simple question can spark off deeper discussions about science, word issues, emotions, and the list goes on. Without the child’s initial interest to start it off, it might be harder to broach these subjects in future when the parent wants to.
- Cultivate thinking skills
Curiosity is a huge motivator for learning, and it trains other skills like critical thinking and hypotheses making. When children want to know about something, they should be given the opportunity to speculate an answer of their own. This allows them to integrate what they know and extrapolate their knowledge to other situations.
From question asking, children also begin to learn how to access and test the validity of others’ claims. Thus, the learning does not stop at the content of the answer. Rather, the whole process of asking and exploring hones the child’s analytical reasoning skills.
What are some ways to nurture a sense of curiosity?
As can be seen, fostering a curious mind is immensely beneficial to a child’s learning and development. While children are already naturally curious, parents can take some steps to reinforce and encourage inquisition.
- Encourage play
Play is a valuable time for children to have the freedom to explore and initiate activities. During play, children are self-motivated to discover, imagine, and problem-solve. This sparks their ability to be independent thinkers. Playtime is also a good time for kids to be exposed to things they are not usually exposed to in the classroom, thus giving more opportunities for curiosity.
For working parents who find it a challenge to commit to providing ample playtime for their children, it is recommended to enrol children in a play-based school. At the kindergarten to primary school level, international schools in Singapore typically have a play-based, child-initiated learning system. Available in schools such as the Canadian International School in Singapore, the Primary Years Programme under IB is specifically catered to nurture inquisitive minds.
- Answer appropriately
The two parts to answering your child’s question are first to understand where they are coming from, and then to give an age-appropriate response.
Not all kids’ questions can be interpreted at face value, as they may not be able to express what they actually want to know. For example, ‘where did you come from?’ might be a question of where you just went, or a question about your origins. Parents should also learn to recognise when questions are vehicles for an act of defiance (e.g. asking ‘Why must I wear my shoes?’ when the child doesn’t want to comply) or attention-seeking behaviour (e.g. ‘What are you doing?’ when the child wants to play with you.)
After understanding your child’s questions, parents should strive to give an appropriate answer to your child. You don’t want to be giving them a scientifically-sound answer chock-full of technical terms if they won’t appreciate that kind of response. Instead, your answer needs to be articulated in a way that relates to them, using examples, metaphors, and models if need be.
- Prompt them for questions
Your child doesn’t need to be the one asking all the questions. Parents can also use leading questions to spur thinking. For instance, while taking a walk, you may point out the sky and wonder aloud ‘Why do you think the clouds move?’ This would lead the child to think about things they didn’t wonder about before and encourage them to be more curious about their surroundings.
- Discover together
Parents can make learning and discovery part of life by setting an example for the children. When children ask questions that stump you, commit to finding out the answer and get back to them as soon as possible. You can also involve them in the answer-seeking process and teach them skills of research and discovery. Some good ways to learn and discover together include going on field trips, going to the library, or surfing the internet together.
The good news is, once your child hits the school-going age, you can share the load of your child’s questions with your child’s school. Support your child’s learning by enrolling them in the best kindergarten school or primary school in Singapore, making sure that the school uses an inquisition-based approach for young students. The IB kindergarten and IB Primary Years Programme are perfect examples of education that will develop your young child’s curiosity into a passion for lifelong learning. Together, the school and home can work hand-in-hand to cultivate your child’s curiosity and learning.